One of the newest health trends for athletes is Blood Flow Restriction training or BFR. This technique has also been useful for more than just that, it is for physical therapy and healing as well. Former NFL Player Jimmie Jones, and Virginia Spine Institute Physical Therapist Justin Geisler, discuss Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training and how it works.
Jimmie has been receiving physical therapy for weakness in his legs, and has a weekly training regiment with Blood Flow Restriction lifting. Justin explained to Jimmie that this type of training would allow him to lift a lighter load, which even as a professional athlete Jimmie always avoided. And when Justin mentioned that former Washington NFL player, Alex Smith used BFR during his rehabilitation, Jimmie said “If it was good enough for him to get him back on the field, right. I might as well try it.”
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) to make it simple, is a way to simulate lifting a heavy weight, but all you have to use is a very lightweight. You use an inflated cuff as a tourniquet on the upper thigh or the upper arm, and it’s going to mimic that same environment that happens when you lift a heavy load. But the great part is that you only have to lift a very light load, and it still makes for a very intense workout.
To start, you place the cuffs on the patient’s upper thigh or upper arm. Once plugged in, you inflate the cuffs to a customized pressure, which is very important. This customized pressure is what gives the patient an individualized treatment that works for their specific condition and stage of their rehabilitation or training regiment. The inflated cuff acts as a tourniquet, and restricts the blood flow to the extremity. Once the cuff has been inflated, and the remote detached, we will either use ankle weights or hand dumbbell weights to perform the workout.
BFR has been used for a long time. But what’s new about it is we’re seeing it now in rehab, and this has been a game changer. As physical therapists, we’re seeing individuals after surgery or after an injury when they may have lifting restrictions. You don’t want to lift heavy, or may not be cleared to lift heavy, right? Well, at the same time we know lifting heavy is the best way to maintain strength and maintain your muscle mass. So with BFR, this allows our patients to abide by those lifting restrictions, while also keeping the individual stronger during the rehab process.
Specifically for Jimmie, his training is twice a week, and the BFR training is for about 20-30 minutes of each of his physical therapy sessions with Justin. But for each patient, it’s important to customize the frequency, load/pressure, and time — all dependent on where they are in their rehab journey, and what their medical history and capabilities look like.
To learn more about Blood Flow Restriction Training, or if you’d like to see if you’re a candidate for this type of treatment, please contact our team to schedule a consultation.